(2012-04-14) Gross War On The Net
As usual, the UN (WCIT/ITU) is wrong. At least three big issues are very likely to be on the table in Dubai, and there’s nothing light about them. One is taxation—a “per click” levy on international Internet traffic... A second issue is data Privacy and CyberSecurity. Authoritarian governments want to tie people’s real names and identities to online activity, and they want international law to permit national encryption standards to allow government surveillance... The third issue is Internet management. Last year, Russia, China, and some pliant allies jointly proposed a U.N. General Assembly resolution (which failed) suggesting the creation of a global information-security “code of conduct” and—as if declaring open season on icann and the other non-governmental groups currently in charge—asserting that “policy authority for Internet-related public issues is the sovereign right of states.”
In the War for the Internet, is there a middle way? The forces of Organized Chaos are not an organized group, don’t call themselves by any name, and disagree on many points... The commitment that unanimously binds them is to make the Internet as reliable as possible. One leading apostle of reliability is Dan Kaminsky, a security analyst and DNS expert and the head of a new stealth start-up... As they devise new systems of authentication, Kaminsky and others are working to be sure that these authentication systems preserve the qualities of privacy and online anonymity... Vint Cerf says, “When I hear senators and congressmen complaining about anonymous speech, I want to stop them and say, you should read your own history. The anonymous tracts that objected to British rule and rules had a great deal to do with the American Revolution. Weren’t you paying attention in civics?”
Jun19 update: Harold Feld on the plans. Even without the concern that the ITU will somehow “take over the Internet,” certain WCIT proposals advanced by a number of regimes that engage in Internet censorship threaten the future of free expression online. These proposals, from the Russian Federation and several Arab states, would for the first time explicitly embrace the concept that governments have a right to control online communications and disrupt Internet access services... I also believe it would impact the ability of the State Department to openly finance programs designed to route around government censorship of the Internet, such as this one in Syria. Albert Wenger also sees risks. Thankfully someone has set up a WCIT leaks site and documents have started to come in. Not surprisingly the picture isn’t pretty with all sorts of restrictions on the Internet being proposed. It is easy to dismiss this as the mumblings of some UN agency that won’t ever result in anything until you focus on the alignment of interest between politicians in all countries to preserve their power.
Jul02 update: Harold Feld says: Persuading enough of these countries and other stakeholders that the downside of expanding ITU authority outweighs the potential benefit is therefore the chief challenge for the U.S. delegation. Unfortunately, the continued conduct of USTR in reenforcing the view that the U.S. Government is the tool of industry by doing things like pushing ACTA (which continues to be held up in Europe and elsewhere as a symbol of the U.S. shilling for Hollywood at the expense of free expression), and maintaining a cloud of secrecy around the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, makes this much harder. While we are kind of stuck with ACTA, the USTR can do a heck of a lot more around transparency in TPP. Given that the ITU has made a number of conciliatory gestures to civil society on the transparency front in the last few weeks, It would be really helpful if USTR would at least stop pissing on its critics and generally making ITU look good.